Covey’s habit #3 is “Put First Things First”.
 
Makes sense. I like the way Covey asks this question: Do you prioritize your schedule or schedule your priorities?
 
That’s rather profound. If we start by scheduling the priorities we begin with a filter that separates many of the things that distract us from getting the important stuff done. Good idea.
 
But how do we prioritize? How do we determine what is a priority? You hear this all the time. Prioritize! Do the important things first! But what are the important things?
 
This goes back to your mission statement. In an earlier post I wrote about the need for a concrete and clear mission statement. I really dislike those fluffy and vague mission statements about helping mankind and making the world a better place while providing a secure and safe workplace for the employee. Those statements are usually made by companies that lay off half of their workforce if the sales drop 2%.
 
I believe in corporate and personal mission statements. Indeed employees should have their own mission statements.
 
The corporate mission statement should relate directly to what the company does. Duh. If the company manufactures Wizzys, the mission statement ought to go something like, “It is our mission to produce the best Wizzy available to sell as many Wizzys as we possibly can at a profit.”
 
The personal mission statement should tie in to the company’s mission statement but on a personal level. Something like, “My mission is to look for ways to improve my company’s Wizzy. I will strive to perform quality work to make our’s the best Wizzy on the market.”
 
Why am I writing about mission statements? If you have no clear mission, how can you prioritize anything? This is the reason so many people are so busy getting so little done. Remember the Chrysler comment? [from earlier post] The new ownership wants to focus on making cars. Really?
 
It’s easy to get lost in reports, meetings and phone calls. But if the entire organization is driven by a real mission it becomes okay to ask, “is this activity contributing to achieving our mission today?” If the answer is no…
 
Yes, there are some things that have to be done that contribute little to the mission. But even those tasks can be tuned or refocused to the mission. The trash cans need to be emptied. A cleaner workplace is a nicer workplace. We empty the trash cans to make this a better place to make Wizzys. Get it?
 
If you have a mission you CAN put first things first. Without a mission the squeaky wheel is going to use up all the grease.
 
Shameless Promotion: Let’s work on this. We can develop an overall business mission and then help your employees make their mission statements. This will be time well spent.
 
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog